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A blog written from the point of view of a martial arts beginner, which I am. You can find the full blog at http://yghmartialarts.blogspot.com. Here on AikiWeb, I'll post only those entries which are relevant to aikido.
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
- Henry Ford
I admit it: I'm never going to be a great martial arts master or champion. If I ever had a chance to accomplish something like that, I have surely missed it.
I'm not old, or even middle-aged, but I'm already nearing the age at which professional athletes either retire or become their teams' "veteran leaders". I know my body does not have the potential it had ten years ago, and moreover I know that the vast majority of people who become great achievers in any physical sport--the martial arts included--master the basics of their sport when they're teenagers or younger. That opportunity is long gone for me.
The world is full of 30- and 40-year-olds who start martial arts training believing that, if they train hard enough, they can become great warriors capable of taking on hordes of opponents Bruce Lee-style. Most people who have have no emotional investment in the martial arts find this kind of thinking laughable, and I'm with them. I have no such illusions.
I have no doubt offended some aikidoka with what I have written so far. "But Matt," I can hear them protest, "my instructor didn't start aikido training until he was an adult. He's in his sixties now and is still getting better. He just earned another dan rank."
This is a popular sentiment in aikido, and in many cases there is much truth to it. It needs clarification, though.
A few weeks ago I introduced my small readership to a much better and much more famous online martial arts writer than myself, Rob Redmond of 24 Fighting Chickens. In that entry, I examined my own martial arts in light of one of Redmond's biggest criticisms of modern Shotokan karate practice: a failure to embrace martial artists' individual creativity.
As I continue to read Redmond's work, a few more recurring points are starting to jump out at me, and one in particular cuts very deep for a practitioner of aikido and taekwondo.
I must admit that one of my goals when I began martial arts training was to make myself into a better person. I have even suggested on this blog that the lofty moral goals of aikido and taekwondo justify my preference of them over more realistic and practical arts. So this crticism of Redmond's is a little more uncomfortable for me to turn on my own arts than the last.
Can aikido and taekwondo really make me into a better person? What if they can't--have I wasted the last year-and-a-half?
In light of history, a few concessions must be made right away. Being a master of aikido didn't keep Steven Sea
Last Thursday night, plagued by a nagging wrist injury and still not sure I was getting everything I wanted out of my aikido training, I payed a visit to a nonprofit Shotokan karate club on the north side of Milwaukee. If nothing else, it was certainly an educational experience.
First of all, I learned karate is not all that much easier on an injured wrist than carefully practiced aikido. This seemed strange to me, since I haven't found the same to be true of taekwondo, which is similar to karate in many ways.
There were other lessons, though, that were much more profound.
To this point, I've mostly had experience with the more lighthearted side of martial arts training. I don't mean to suggest that the people I train with don't take their arts seriously enough or try to do their best, but there has never a question of why we're all there: we enjoy martial arts training. Training in the dojo or dojang is not primarily a matter of honor, devotion, or even necessity for us. We train to get a workout and to do something we enjoy.
What I found at this karate club, though, was very different.
We ran to line up at the beginning of class. We bowed as we were curtly ordered by the senior student, first to the shomen (we were in a gymnasium--where was the shomen?), then to the instructor. We stood silently as the instructor introduced me to the class, then lectured on the history of Japanese karate and how serious an undertaking karate is. He told me that some people c